How to save on your utility bill this winter

Tips on how to winterize your home from a building science professional
Preparing your home for the colder weather can help keep more money in your wallet -- even with rising costs.
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:46 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - We see it happen every year: as the temperatures drop outside, our heating bills rise.

Preparing your home for the colder weather can keep more money in your wallet, even with the rising costs.

“You need to winterize your home because you’re otherwise throwing money out the window,” said Ford Carson with Virginia Energy Sense.

It starts with actions you can take right now. Carson recommends programming a schedule into your thermostat or manually turning the temperature down when you leave or while you sleep.

“Every degree on your thermostat typically equals 1% on your power bill,” said Carson. “So, if you were to turn down your thermostat five degrees, that equals 5%.”

As for bigger projects, Carson said it’s okay to only do what you can now before the coldest temperatures of winter arrive.

“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” said Carson. “That can be as simple as taking advantage of the sun all the way to, you know, a professional home energy audit.”

Participating in a professional home energy audit is the option NBC12 explored next. During a professional energy audit, a blow door is used to identify how much outside air is escaping or entering your home.

Gary Treaster is a Building Science Professional with Energy Conservation Incorporated who conducted the audit.

While examining a window, Treaster pointed out “these were sealed here. Not along the edge. So it just is pouring in right there.”

Areas with gaps in houses include windows, electrical panel boxes, fireplaces, and the plumbing under your sink. Those tiny gaps in your home add up.

“These are incremental. They are little, but keep adding them up,” said Treaster. “We can tell you the approximate size of the total hole. So you have an accumulation of holes as big as that window that’s completely open to the elements.”

If you think only installing new windows will solve your problem, think again.

“People will purchase windows thinking they’re going to save a tremendous amount of money and they don’t typically because the rest of the building hasn’t been changed,” said Treaster.

Windows aren’t cheap, so Treaster says to start by filling the other gaps in your home with caulk or spray foam.

Next, we went to the attic to look at the insulation.

“Fiberglass laying on the ceiling is the least efficient because of gaps around it. So, in these older homes, there’s a lot of openings to where the wire holes go down, where walls come together,” said Treaster.

He said instead of fiberglass, “the best insulation product is spray foam products because it provides thermal qualities, but also it stops air movement.”

Big projects like insulation are most easily done during a renovation, or before you move into a home.

Smaller or short-term tasks like caulking or spray foam can be DIY projects finished in time for this winter.